In Good Company

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Matt Plaus is a Practical English for Success (PES) volunteer serving in a pueblo in Magdalena, Colombia.

“Andaaaa! OK, otra vez. Profe, como así. Gud aftirnoone.”

“Much better. Really, you’re getting so much better. Are you sure you weren’t born in the United States? You must of have spent some time there.”

“Yo deseo, Profe. Estoy aburrido aquí. No me gusta el pueblo. No hay nada pa’ hacer.”

“It’s not that boring here. It’s beautiful, and I love swimming in the river, and everyone is so nice”

Maria and I sit under the shade of a juvenile mango tree. It’s short. My head juts through the leaves. It’s uncomfortable, but I’d crawl inside the tree, if it meant avoiding this brutal Caribbean sun.

“Profe, te gusta Latinas? Estás aquí porque te gusta Colombianas, no.”

Maria works in her Grandmother’s store. I have sat with her everyday for the last three weeks. We practice English, she corrects my Spanish, and we talk about how badly she wants to leave our Guajiran pueblo, her hometown, where I live and work. Every day she asks if I prefer Latinas or Gringas.

“It’s not that important to me at this time in my life. I want other things besides getting married, you know. I have other plans that come before getting married.”

“Entiendo,” she says, unconvinced.

“How was your sister’s birthday party,” I say changing the subject.

She’s always wants to talk about her sisters. She has three. They live in the city. She sees them every weekend and talks to them every night.

She was in a car accident a few years ago. She was badly injured. Her family thought it would be easier to recover in the smaller, friendlier environment. That’s why she’s here, and they’re there.

Her sisters, her nephews, and her burning desire to leave Dibulla; that’s all Maria really wants to talk about. She doesn’t understand how I could choose to be here, away from my family.

“Muy divertido. Muy divertido. Voy a salir y vivir con ellas.”
“I know you want to live in the city.”

“No, esta fin de semana voy a mudarme.”

“What?” It’s like being hit in the face with a bucket of cold water…and a brick. “This weekend?”

“Sí.”

“Who’s going to watch the store?”

“No sé. Una muchacha,” she shrugs.

“That’s great,” I gasp. My veins are pumping liquid nitrogen. “It’s what you wanted,” my eyes are tearing up. I haven’t cried since I’ve been here, but I might right now.

I have to go. I have to leave.

“That’s awesome, but I have to get home, Maria. Sorry.”

“Hasta luego.”

“Well, maybe not. You’re moving, so maybe not.”

My only friend. I’ve been here eight months, and I have made one friend. Now, she’s leaving for the city, and I wish I could too.

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